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Hunger-striking detainees sign deal with prison authority

May 14, 2012 6:29 P.M. (Updated: May 17, 2012 10:02 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Detainees on Monday signed a deal with the Israeli prison authority to end their mass hunger strike, officials told Ma'an.

Prisoner representatives from each of the factions agreed to the deal in Ashkelon jail, prisoners society chief Qaddura Fares said in a statement.

Israel's internal security service Shin Bet confirmed the deal, the Israeli news site Ynet reported.

Terms

Senior Hamas official Saleh Arouri, who was a member of the negotiations team, said Israel agreed to provide a list of accusations to administrative detainees, or release them at the end of their term.

In comments to the Hamas-affiliated new site Palestine Information Center, he said that under the Egypt-brokered deal Israel agreed to release all detainees from solitary confinement over the next 72 hours.

Israel will also lift a ban on family visits for detainees from the Gaza Strip, and revoke the "Shalit law," according to the official.

The "Shalit law" restricted prisoners' access to families and to educational materials as punishment for the five-year captivity of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Shalit was freed in October in a prisoner swap agreement.

All or nothing

Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Ma'an that all prisoners must end the hunger strike within 72 hours, and not later refuse food, for the deal to hold.

Around 2,000 prisoners joined a mass hunger strike launched on April 17 to demand fair prison conditions, according to prisoners groups' estimates.

Another group of prisoners held in administrative detention launched an earlier strike in protest at their detention without charge, including Bilal Diab, 27, and Thaer Halahla, 33, who have gone for 77 days without food.

Their lawyer Jamil Khatib told Ma'an that Diab and Halahla were informed of the deal earlier Monday. They were told the agreement includes their release at the end of their detention term but both refused to stop their strike unless they were immediately released, Khatib said.

On Monday evening, a relative of Halahla said the long-term hunger-strikers were still deciding on next steps. Prisoners society lawyer Jawad Bulous is heading to the prison hospitals to discuss the deal with hunger-strikers, minister Issa Qaraqe told reporters.

Power of non-violence

PLO official Hanan Ashrawi applauded the deal and said it proved the power of non-violent resistance.

"The Palestinian prisoners in facing the Israeli Prison Authority is a victory not only for them and their families, but also for the millions of Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory and in exile," Ashrawi said in a statement.

"The hunger strikers' courage is magnificently inspiring, and their selflessness deeply humbling," the official added.

She also thanked Egyptian mediators, the international community "and people of conscience worldwide" for supporting the strikers.
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